February 2005 News

Valley winners say sorry to militants

15 February 2005
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jameel

Srinagar: Just a week after the civic polls celebrated neighbourhood democracy in the Valley, elected candidates are running for cover, apologising for the ‘mistake’ as a cloud of terror hovers over them. After the killing of councillors—including National Conference’s Khaksar Mohammad Maqbool Shah, a 70-year-old Imam who was tipped to become Srinagar’s mayor—there has been a wave of panic among the elected candidates. Thirteen councillors of Beerwah threatened to resign because of security concerns while two PDP councillors from Khanabal in Anantnag, Ghulam Mohidin Bhat and Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat, didn’t wait. They went to the Jamia mosque in Khanabal on Friday, went up to the pulpit and announced their resignation, apologised for contesting the polls and sought pardon. There have been advertisements in local Urdu newspapers from elected councillors and— even those who fought and lost—seeking pardon from the militants for ‘‘committing a blunder by contesting the civic polls.’’ Abdul Majeed Khan, who was elected from a ward in Beerwah, issued a ‘‘maafi nama’’ (appeal for pardon) in Aftab newspaper last week. In yet another ‘maafi nama’ that appeared as an advertisement in daily Alsafa, the family members of Sheikh Mohammad Amin, who contested the polls as an independent, apologised for the ‘‘mistake committed by Amin and sought pardon’’ from the militants. Unmoved by militant threats, the government had not planned security cover for the councillors. In fact, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed brushed aside concerns, maintaining that ‘‘the people are the security for them.’’ ‘‘How will we protect so many of them (councillors)? We (the government) don’t have the resources,’’ says a senior official.   For talks, Govt waits for Hurriyat response: Giving a clear hint that it was ready to resume talks with Hurriyat, the Centre on Tuesday said it would extend a formal invitation once the conglomerate indicates it’s ready to meet Home Minister Shivraj Patil to find a solution to the J&K problem. Abdullah’s well- protected party headquarters, Nawa-e-Subuh, has become a safe refuge for all the elected councillors who came to hide there soon after the assassination of their colleague. A few councillors are hiding in a protected hotel in Rajbagh. Most of the councillors in the townships too have fled for safer places. Abdul Rasheed Haroon, who was elected from Mahjoor Nagar neighbourhood in Srinagar, is hiding at NC’s headquarters. ‘‘I am completely separated from my family. My wife and children are scared,’’ he says. He blames the State government for turning this ‘‘low-profile election’’ into a propaganda of its success. ‘‘We are hiding. How can we solve the problems of people, if we are not able to go out?’’ he says.. The Mufti government had planned to provide one armed police guard to each councillor. But councillors say that they will be able to move around only if the government provides them with at least two personal security guards, a bullet-proof vehicle and a protected accommodation. Director General of Police, Gopal Sharma says the government will provide them security but it will take time.‘‘We have taken up the matter. It has to be evolved,’’ he says.


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